Mountain Laurel Designs, “Spirit Quilt” 28°

MLD Spirit Quilt, in fully open mode. Offering an at-home style of sleeping!
MLD Spirit Quilt, in quilt mode, or fully open mode, is an exceptional synthetic sleep quilt.

The Mountain Laurel Designs “Spirit 28° Quilt“, my first synthetic sleeping quilt, has proven to be an exceptional piece of hiking gear. The quality of build, the attention to details, the type of fabric used, and of course the ClimaShield APEX, all make the Spirit quilt my quilt of choice.

Last year when I decided to make the move away from using goose/duck down products I knew that the selection of synthetic quilts to pick from was going to be small. I also knew that I would not even bother looking. The amount of hikers I truly respect that have given the MLD Spirit quilt the highest praise that can be given, just made the decision for me. I was not disappointed. Exceptional, truly exceptional.

The Decision To Buy:

For the last few years I have been a diehard – well over 500 nights – user and evangelist of the Montbell U.L. Super Spiral Hugger sleeping bag (now called the ‘Down Hugger’). However I made the decision to do away with as many animal / goose/duck down products as I could, and thus the down sleeping bags just had to go – so I sold all three of the MB sleeping bags that I had.

So as I mentioned above, when it came time to purchase a synthetic quilt, there was one, and only one, on my list to buy – the “Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Spirit’ 28° Quilt“.

The expertise of those who make gear at MLD are very likely the best within the American cottage industry. Add to that the fact that Ron Bell, the owner of MLD, probably invests more time into research and quality-control of fabric than anybody else in the industry. Further add to these facts the proven track record of some hikers I very much respect that have spoken very highly of it. Plus looking at the price point of the MLD quilts one is very impressive. All of these factors really had me doing zero research into other synthetic quilts that might have been on the market. It was a simple decision.

The Spirit Quilts come in three different temps, 28° 38° and 48° – and because I was buying right at the coldest time of the year I went with the 28° – which, hindsight being what it is, I probably could have gone with the 38° because the ClimaShield APEX that is within them retains heat in a way unlike any goose or duck down sleeping quilt/bag that I have ever used.

The ClimaShield APEX also means the quilt does not suffer cold spots – something I had come to loathe with every goose/duck down sleeping bag I have owned.


When I ordered mine MLD had just started shipping their quilts in a new 10d fabric. It is amazingly soft, does not appear to suffer any thread stitch pulling, nor any degradation. I performed a standard puddle test when I got the quilt and it performed far beyond expectations. For being only 10d it is a highly impressive fabric. You can read more about it on the MLD Fabric Mojo page.


All of the MLD Spirit quilts are able to be full opened – think a standard rectangle blanket like on your bed at home- due to having a velcro closure and a cordage+plug closure at the very end.

This is really nice because it allows maximum versatility. Is it cold outside? Close it all the way up and bask in the warmness of the ClimaShield APEX. Is it a bit too warm out? Open up the leg velcro to vent out some heat. It is too hot for any footbox at all? Fully open it up and have an at-home blanket style sleep. Versatility at its best.

It uses “Omni Tape” velcro – which means it does not stick to no-see-um mesh and a lot of other fabrics that we hikers use. That is good!! The Omni Tape does enjoy sticking to silk and, for me, that is a bit of a bummer because I prefer to sleep in Thermasilk tops and bottoms, versus using a silk liner. A number of times, when I have had the velcro loose to help vent the footbox, the Omni Tape has latched onto my silk bottoms. I would much rather have the velcro tape than a zipper and you can custom order the quilt without the velcro – perhaps you could have them add an extra snap button or two instead – which is what I plan on asking for when I order a 38° quilt.

Poncho Head Slot:

The 48° and the 38° versions of the quilt offer a ‘Poncho Head Slot’ option. It allows you to poke your head through a slot in the quilt and use it as a poncho.

This type of feature has been around for years on other quilts, so it was really nice to see MLD introduce this in the 2015 version of their quilts.

The 28° does not have the poncho hood slot option. The reason being, as I have been told from Ron Bell, owner of MLD, is that “the 28° is a bit too thick for the poncho hood slot. Additionally the thickness of the 28°, with a hood slot, would bleed heat too much for the intended temps. Resolving that would require some door contraption to seal it – perhaps with a loft plug {such as the foot box uses} or something.” When I inquired if the poncho hood slot has velcro or some other method of closure, I was informed: “there is no velcro on the poncho hood slot, rather the edges overlap each other and snap closed“. All in all, totally understandable issue.

The advantage of going with the poncho head slot, for some hikers, is not having to carry the additional weight of a thermal jacket. By using your quilt as a poncho you can save yourself the however-many-grams/ounces that your thermal jacket would normally weight. Plus, it means less pack volume bulk – a key aspect when using very small volume backpacks. I remember a few years ago reading a “2.4 pound AT” setup which utilized this technique.

Take it a step further and combine together the MLD Spirit Quilt (with the poncho head slot option) and a MLD CF Poncho and you would have yourself one very streamlined setup – and a massive savings in bulk and weight over a traditional quilt+thermal+tarp+rain jacket setup. Shawn “Pepper” Forry used this technique on his unsupported FKT of the Colorado trail. I might also add that he used both the MLD Spirit Quilt AND the MLD CF Poncho on his epic ‘Winter PCT‘ adventure, along with Justin “Trauma” Lichter.

The Poncho Hood Slot option is the leading reason I am wanting to buy a 48° version of the Spirit quilt. I think the ability to use the quilt in poncho mode, and not have to carry the weight of a dedicated synth jacket, is a decision that just makes sense in many situations.

Synthetic ClimaShield APEX:

In the world of quilt/sleeping bag insulations, there are pretty much only two options: (1) Goose/Duck down. (2) ClimaShield APEX (Synthetic).

It is not my intent to get into why a person should select one or the other. I made the choice to move away from animal down for almost every reason that is out there.

The two biggest reasons are:

First, I live in an area of the world that is usually very wet. The Redwood forest of Northern California has a very high amount of fog and rain. Condensation is a way of life here. Choosing to use a single wall shelter over a double wall shelter, results in an increase of condensation build up inside my shelters every morning. This water, the condensation, night after night after night, leads to pretty much all of my gear getting wet after a few days, no matter how much I try to protect it. Making the switch to a synthetic quilt just made sense given how much animal down suffers performance loss after getting damp/wet.

Secondly, are the issue of cold spots. When it comes to animal down quilts/bags, almost everybody on the market uses a standard ‘sewn through’ technique – and this results in cold spots. This can usually be resolved by using a box baffle, or a vertical baffle, technique. However, they are very few of such style quilts in the world of ultralight (and below) hiking. Some companies are coming up with new methods of using the traditional stitch-through method, but in the end, animal down is still going to shuffle – and when that happens, you end up with cold spots.. and cold spots suck. So the best way to resolve this is, of course, have less stitching. The best way to accomplish that: use an insulator that comes in a big square piece, which can just be slide into one huge baffle, instead of dozens, or dozens of dozens. If you want to reduce cold spots, going with a synthetic sleeping bag/quilt is your best option.

The lowest temperatures I have been able to get into while using the MLD Spirit Quilt 28° is F16° and I am sure I could have pushed that a few more degrees if the temperature had dropped, as I was wearing a standard base layer along with the MLD APEX Balaclava, a Montbell Thermawrap Guide, a pair of Feathered Friends Down Booties, and a pair of Black Rock Gear Foldback Mitts. With that setup there is a good chance I could have gotten down into the single digits, though I have to be honest and say “comfortable” at single digits is just not something I consider to be… well, comfortable. Downright bloody cold in my opinion. This hiker does not like being in anywhere near that cold of weather. But, obviously, doable with the right gear.

One of the very unexpected qualities of the ClimaShield APEX has been that it seems to retains heat significantly longer than animal down. You know those cold mornings when you have to leave the comfort of your nice warm quilt at 2am to go water a tree. You now how a lot of times when you get back into your quilt most of the heat inside has been lost – yeah, I hate that too. The logic behind that is very simple. Animal down heat is a result of trapped released body heat. Movement and a lack of constant released body heat causes the warm air to be lost. With this ClimaShield APEX, however, it takes significantly longer for that trapped body heat to be lost. There have been times when I would be away for my warmed quilt for 10-15 minutes (sigh, sometimes it is more than just watering a tree that happens at 2am, eh) and low and behold, the quilt was still warm. Something that never happened with any animal down bag I have owned, even zero-degree bags. This whole aspect of the synthetic insulation has been a rather interesting revelation to me. The same thing happens with the Montbell Thermawrap Guide jacket, when compared to every single animal down jacket I have owned. So yes, animal down might be able to compress a slightly bit better, and it might be lighter on the scale, but when I look at a checkbox of pros/vs/cons of animal down and synthetic insulation, there are more pros on the side of synthetic insulation.

In this photo you can see the compressibility of the Spirit 28° quilt. While probably not advised to compress this much, it just goes to show how much the Cl APEX is able to compress.
In this photo (click to view larger size) you can see the compressibility of the Spirit 28° quilt. While probably not advised to compress this much, it just goes to show how much the ClimaShield APEX is able to compress.


I have to be honest and say that I really do not know how this ClimaShield APEX will hold up over time when being compressed, as I have not used it long enough to have it start to break down.

What I can say is that over the course of 600+ days out on the trail I went through two (2) animal down sleeping bags. With the first bag 100% of the down had to be replaced. The second time 60% of the down was replaced by the manufacturer, after the other 40% was “revived”, whatever that means. In both bags all of the animal down was 800fp and I used a Sea to Summit eVENT Compression Dry  Sack 100% of the time.

There has been a long and often meaningless internet debate over compressing synthetic gear (and animal down for that fact too) and I have always stayed out of that whole issue – I just do not care about it enough to get involved. Experience and time on the trail tells you something very clear: All gear breaks down when used. If you don’t want that to happen, stay home.

I have attached a photograph to show how the 28° quilt compresses down – be it good or bad (probably bad) for the longevity/durability of the quilt – so folks can at least see what the volume bulk size of the 28° quilt can be.  Note that I am using the Sea to Summit “Ultra-Sil” eVENT Compression Dry Sacks, an updated and lighter version of the original S2S eVENT compression dry sack.

I will have to admit that the ClimaShield APEX is able to compress significantly better/smaller than what I was expecting it too. It does compress down smaller than what my two MBULSS#3 (30°) bags ever did, and about the same as the MBULSS#1 (a 15° bag) that I used in colder conditions.

While at home I just throw the quilt, in blanket mode, onto a bed in a second bedroom.

In Closing:

There was a time when I thought hikers that used synthetic hiking gear had no clue what they were really doing. I was so wrong. Everything about what I have learned and experienced using synthetic hiking gear, from the Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Spirit’ 28° Quilt, the MLD APEX Balaclava, the Montbell Thermawrap Guide, Montbell Thermawrap UL Jacket, the Montbell Thermawrap UL Pants, and more, has just further confirmed to me that the decision I made last year to make the switch was a brilliant decision.

The versatility, the weight, the price, the durability, and the quality of craftsmanship, all speak to the reason why so many hikers I respect have given the Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Spirit’ Quilt the high praise that they have. To throw my name into the group of  hikers that have used and love the Spirit quilt is something I can do without any hesitation at all. My next quilt will be another MLD Spirit, probably the 48° for summer/shoulder season hiking. I, unquestionably and without any hesitation, recommend the Mountain Laurel Designs ‘Spirit’ Quilts.

Thanks for reading,
+John Abela

In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that at the time this article is published that I am a sponsored hiker of Black Rock Gear, Montbell US, Suluk46, Sun Precautions.

37 thoughts on “Mountain Laurel Designs, “Spirit Quilt” 28°

  1. My Spirit quilt is several years old and made from different fabrics but it’s still going strong – an excellent piece of kit. The MLD label is starting to come off and that is the only damage.

    Worth noting

    – when I bought mine, the size of the regular quilt was only just big enough for my 5′ 10″. If sizing is still the same, I’d go with Long for a cold weather quilt.

    – the Spirit quilt is easy to wash. I’ve always used professionals for down but that isn’t necessary with the Spirit.

    – without a poncho opening, you can make the Spirit into walking-around-in-camp insulation by closing the snaps and draw cords over each wrist. I imagine a poncho opening would be much better.

    – the quilt works well as a top bag over a summer weight sleeping bag in winter, an option I like for Christmas camping in Britain when you can’t predict whether the temperature will be over +5C or below -5C.

    1. Hey John. From what I have heard from others, the amazing durability that you have gotten is pretty much right in line with everybody else. I look forward to getting 500+ nights with this quilt.

  2. John A, can you comment on sizing and sleeping coverage? I know you’re a side sleeper, what size did you go with and how well does it wrap around you? MLD sizing is a bit narrower than what I’m used to thinking I need to keep out drafts when sleeping on my side.


    1. Hey Art. I am 5’11&3/4 and 160 pounds. I do side sleep 100% of the time. I ordered the size “large”. It wraps around me very well without having it have gaps at the bottom for cold wind to come in. I have often wondered if a “regular” size would also have worked, given how wide it seems to usually be for me. Umm, only time I would say that there could have been issues was when it was down at the 16-18° temps… but I had on so much other clothing, and inside of a very good shelter, that I would not have noticed any air gaps, so using it with a massive thermal layer is an unknown (thankfully) but I highly doubt it was. I should also note that I have never used the straps to wrap it around a pad… I never have liked those things… I just tuck and roll and call it good.

      1. Art, to give you another size reference, I am about 5’8″ and 175lbs, so definitely stockier than John. I have a size large Spirit 28 and the fit is good for me. I could actually go a couple inches shorter but would not want to go any narrower on the width. I know a lot of people are of the mentality wider is better for quilts, so they can just tuck the extra width underneath them, but find this is not necessary. To me that is just wasted weight/bulk and I believe a more form fitting quilt is going to be more efficient. Oh yeah, I am a dedicated side sleeper and toss and turn quite a bit. I’ve trained myself to push down on the edge of the quilt when turning to control drafts. Also agree with John regarding the straps, I don’t use them either.

    1. Hey Mary, ah, yeah, good question… otherwise how would you know which to buy… other then did what I had to do… buy a few different sizes. doh/sigh. According to the little tag on the bag, the one I am using for the Spirit 28° is a “S”.

  3. Great write up. I’m also a fan of synthetic insulation. I can’t put it in to words very well but there is just something “different” about the way it heats up. I totally agree with you on the cold spot issues with down. For me it hasn’t been so much with the sewing at the baffles but just spots where there isn’t any/much down, this is especially an issue with horizontal baffles. My tossing and turning in combination with side sleeping usually results in the down shifting from the center to down the sides, leaving me with not much insulation in the shoulder area. As you mentioned, with synthetic being a large continuous sheet of insulation, the shifting is non-existent. I was also amazed/pleased with how well the synthetic can be stuffed. The Spirit 28 takes up a lot less space in my pack than I was expecting. And every piece of gear I own from MLD is so solid and well built that I have become a loyal customer.

    1. yeah, it really is a strange thing to try to explain, how the warmth difference is between animal down and synthetic, huh. whatever it is, I like it! Thanks for taking the time to stop by and comment!

  4. Great review,
    Is the little bag/pouch connected to the foot end the plug to completely close the foot box? If so, how effective is it? This is a problem that plagues my EE quilt. No matter how tight I cinch-up the foot box, I can always manage to get a draft through the bunched end.

    1. Hey Mark, uhhh, not something I have noticed. Could be because at these low of temps, wearing thick thermal socks is just something I always do/have on, so I wouldn’t probably notice any small air draft on my feet. Suffered frostbite on an expedition a number of years ago, so constantly have cold feet sensitivity, so I pretty much always end up wearing thick socks when sleeping in lower temps. Plus, I tend to always wear socks, even in the summer time, just to keep my bags clean. Have a pair of very thin silk socks that are dedicated sleep socks. I probably obsess more about making sure my bags stay clean than is necessary. Could there be air drafts getting in, perhaps, and in fact, probably a little bit, but I’d tend to think it is very very little. Totally understand the situation you bring up.

      1. I find it hard to sleep with socks on. (I have no idea why. ha ha). I read on the MLD site that it comes with a plug, and I thought that it was a great idea.
        Thanks for the detailed reviews. I wish I found this site earlier in my journey.

  5. I’ve really wanted to get one of the 48 degree quilts for my mild 3 season trips, especially in wet weather. I had not heard that they were adding the poncho feature and honestly, that pretty much ensures this going on my to buy list!

    1. Yep, I am seriously thinking of ordering up one of the 48° quilts with the poncho hood option over the winter season, for use in the 2016 hiking season. I have heard MLD offers the ability to have eVENT fabric at the foot and/or head end of the quilts (to help with condensation) even though it is not listed on the MLD website. If that proves to be the case, going to have them add the eVENT to the foot end. No idea how much extra this costs, and how important it really is given the apex thermal fabric, but it seems the foot end of quilts is always the only spot that gets wet on my quilts/bags – usually from me ending up sliding down inside my shelter and condensation getting onto the fabric. I could see getting it at the head end if a person was out in crazy cold weather… I might have gotten it on the 28° if I knew the option was available at the time.

  6. Interesting points about synthetic vs down, I’ve been a synthetic advocate for some time due to the weird climate where I do allot of my camping, but was starting to look at the new water repellant down available until this post reaffirmed my affinity of synthetics especially the 28 quilt.

  7. i have an MLD Spirit 30 quilt that is seven or eight years old. Although the workmanship is the normal MLD fantastic quality, I never found the quilt to be very warm. Do you have any idea how long Climashield Apex has been around? I doubt mine was Climashield Apex. Based on your review, I might consider replacing my old Spirit 30 with a new 28.

    1. Hey Gerry,

      Those are two questions/points that I have no idea of the answer too.

      I too would be interested in knowing if the fabric has a ‘lifespan’ before it starts loosing thermal value, as well as knowing how long it has been around.

      Very much a question for Ron Bell, if you drop him an email and he responds, I would love to have you post a reply with the answers!

  8. John,
    I emailed Ron and he quickly responded. I asked him since I purchased mine in 2009 was it likely NOT Climashield Apex. His response unfortunately did not shed much light on the insulation issue…

    “- that’s an old one- I can’t remember if it was Apex- if so it may have been an earlier version of Apex – and a lot earlier outer fabric/liner”

    1. Hmm, well, suppose that is a bummer you are not able to know for sure.

      Seven years is a lot longer than any animal down sleeping bag has ever survived for me with the amount of days per year I do… so I do not think I would have a probably buying a new one, five or six years down the road lol

      1. My gear does not get nearly the use each year that yours does. At best it gets two to three weeks worth. But I have to say that my impression about my quilt not being that warm or breathable began from the beginning; it is not something that developed over time. With my level of use and my manner of storage (loosely in a tub), wear/breakdown of the insulation was not a factor in my case. Hopefully the current Climashield Apex and fabrics that Ron is using are significantly better in terms of warmth, breathability, and durability.

    1. When I asked in 2013, Ron responded: “2,4,6 oz sq/yd. Note our temp guides online are far more meaningful than those numbers.” Temperature rating back then was the same as it is now.

  9. Hi,
    I am looking at the 28 as well but really would like the option of wearing it at camp. I know Ron does not offer it as its too thick. Do you think its possible to add a velcro/omni tape opening head slot for poncho mode? Or do you also think it would be a bad idea. Thank you

  10. Hello,
    I want to order a spirit quilt these days but I am not sure which one. I want to boost a 42F mummy bag down to 23 F and I am questioning if a spirit 48 could do this job. Is there anyone experienced in layering a mummy down bag with a spirit quilt? Thanks…

  11. No one has mentioned yet how the warmth of the Spirit 28 compares to a down quilt of similar weight. What would be the equivalent weight of a down filled bag or quilt to give the same amount of warmth?
    I have a Katabatic Chisos 40, and an EE Revelation 10, and am wondering what the weight penalty would be going synth.

  12. How’s this quilt been treating you? Has the insulation held up to sustained compression/decompression, or has it lost a significant amount of warmth/loft?


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